Thursday, December 18, 2008

Week 3 Pre-BYOB Post - Lalibela (Elizabeth) - December 20th 2008

Yes Kunkel, we are headed to Africa...because what screams of food more than Ethiopia?

Every year at this time infomercials featuring Sally Struthers flood the airwaves at
4am. With Sally as my muse I pulled the trigger. We will eat, and eat, and eat, and eat in honor of all those who cannot. We will gorge ourselves on fantastic, spicy food that and mop it all up with injera (yummy Ethiopian flatbread). We will take a stand and fight the war on hunger!

Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant
at 5633 N Ashland Ave Chicago, Il 60660

Every review for this restaurant is fantastic. They are known for their tasty vegetarian fare, but serve more traditional lamb and beef entrees as well. The staff has already proven to be especially accommodating as they promised to provide Schumacher with a second table, paper table cloth and crayons for his 7th grade dodgeball team. Mark - you can regale them with stories about your time spent coaching imaginary kids at home in your red spandex shorts and black plastic whistle (Betsi told us all about it). Then you can either eat or draw up plays with the crayons. Choose wisely!

As far as drinks, Tej, an Ethiopian honey wine is generally drank to counteract the spice of the food. I have done some research in hopes of finding this in
Chicago, to no avail. However, a similar variety called Meade is available at stores such as Binnys and Sams Liquor.

The reservation is for
7:30. See you all on Saturday!

P.S. An honest-to-goodness donation has been made to fight hunger in our honor.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Week 2 Review - Turkish Cuisine & Bakery (Bear and Macher) - December 6, 2008

Well friends, it was just the second outing of our young (supple?) BYOB season, but it can best be summed up as a night of firsts. It was the first time we witnessed live entertainment. It was the first time we attempted an in-restaurant dance-off. And, perhaps most hilariously, it was the first time anyone ever witnessed, attempted, or gaped slack-jawed at the “slow-ha.”

To the scoreboard…

The Scene

The Turkish Cuisine & Bakery appeared a bit shabby on entry. The lighting was poor, the décor traditional but lacking in character, and the dining room a little worn and fairly empty. But, towards the midway point in our meal, the worn carpet and ample space started to make more sense. The lights were dimmed, the strobe lights came alive, and our pupils constricted as we realized that the Turks had employed the ultimate in business rules “under-promise; over-deliver.” No, it was not a guest appearance by the 38th ranked DJ in the world...Benni Bennasi. The white-hot house music would have to wait; it was time for some Turkish belly dancing.

With midriff exposed the belly dancer worked the room ‘til we were all good and Golden Horny (sorry). Then she flipped the script and offered us each a golden opportunity to shake our hips (read embarrass ourselves). But I doubt that even that the Byzantine beauty expected the next twist…a drunken male belly dance-off. Insults were exchanged; gauntlets thrown down; Macher and Mos went mano e mano. Two men entered...not really sure who or what left. Check it out…

With all that said the reviews came back mixed. Some overlooked the décor for the fun; some could not get over the 40 degree bathroom (shrinkage!)!

Group Rating: 3.29 / 4.0 (solid)

The Service

As someone that has visited Turkey I can vow that if anything, the Turks pride themselves on providing great service. Turkish Cuisine & Bakery was no exception. The group described our waiter as "gracious", "absolutely great" and..."sexy"? Swarmy may have been more apt, but hey de gustibus non disputandem.

No matter your opinion, the man was patient, willing to provide advice, charismatic and touchy-feely. Bosin received the most hands-on instruction (note the photo) and I think the stellar ratings reflect her gratitude.

Group Rating: 3.68 / 4.0 (Whoa!)

The Grub

The food was a tale of two tables. One half of the group was disappointed from the baba ganoush to the baklava. The other side found most dishes at least a smairtings-hairtings. Perhaps at times the antics overshadowed the food for some. In addition to the dance-off and after Stamos defeated a solid slow-clap, JerBear unveiled his most recent brainchild - the slow "ha". It was too much for Stamos, who succumbed to an overwhelming urge to imbibe.
In the end it was fairly average Turkish food with a few standout dished including the lamb with yogurt and Emily's mouth-watering chicken. I think everyone would agree that, regardless of quality, Turkish coffee, especially when prepared table-side, is always a fun way to end a meal.

Group Rating: 2.79 / 4.0 (meh)


Once again BYOB club enjoyed a resounding success. Only one thing was missing...our other members! Where were you Tusk, Tyson, Jackie and others! We missed you! Who wouldn't have enjoyed the Tusk doing the splits as the belly dancer whirled around him (and eyed him). Even without him fun was had by all. Our club is 2-0 in awesomeness on the season. Here's to hoping we can keep up the strong work in weeks to come.

Group Rating: 3.25 / 4.0

More Evidence

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Week 2 Pre-BYOB Post - Turkish Cuisine & Bakery (Dan) - December 6th 2008

This Saturday I invite you all to travel with me to another region of the city to sample the cuisine from yet another region of the world. Please join me this December 6th at Turkish Cuisine & Bakery, located at 5605 North Clark in Andersonville. A reservation has been set for 7:30 p.m.

What to expect? Typical shananigans plus (keep your fingers crossed) live entertainment, including smairtings belly dancing. We should have no trouble getting a waitress to torment our little Greek friend with a slow clap at this establishment. Stamos, bring some Ouzo along to increase intoxication and hatred. Or bring its Turkish counterpart, Raki, to seek sympathy.

Per online reviews, it would appear as though the Turks and Cubans have at least a couple traits in common: tasty food and slow service. But, as demonstrated at our prior gathering, slow service favors one of our primary objectives: alcohol consumption. One reviewer has boasted her group drank two bottles of wine and four beers while waiting for their food. How pathetic. The food has received good reviews. Prepare your belly for delicious Mediterranean fare.

I wish I could provide you with a primary resource to research this venue so you don’t have to take my word for it. Unfortunately, the restaurant website is not in working order. This was a con for me in making my decision, but the pros (my love for Mediterranean cuisine and the chance to take a trip to Andersonville) outweighed my disgust with their hoopty ass website. If they are putting all there love and energy into delicious cuisine, who can complain?

Click here (warning NSFW) for a YouTube preview. Or check out the menu here.

The Clark bus is the most direct route to the restaurant. The Bryn Mawr Red Line stop is aproximately 1/2 mile away.

See you there!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Week 1 Review - Habana Libre (Diez) - November 15, 2008

First of all, let me begin by letting you all know how excited I am that our exceptionally exclusive and irrepressibly inimitable little club has returned to action. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we are back! It was great to see everyone together again and I think I speak for everyone when I say that this season’s BYOB season definitely has the potential to be one of the two best BYOB seasons of all-time. At least! Now that we’ve got all the pleasantries out of the way, it’s time to get down to business.

My friends, let me be the first to welcome you to the inaugural BYOB Club dinner roundup blog post! We’ll keep it short and sweet (read: long winded and incessant). Comments are HIGHLY encouraged. I’m already excited to read Jeremy and Brian’s comments but, with all due respect to the Big Fella and the “other” bald guy, the more people’s input we can get the more interactive/interesting/awesome this is going to be. And we’re off…

The Scene

Habana Libre provided a great environment for the BYOB club to do what we do. What do we do you say? Well, we take up half of a restaurant, greedily acquire 75% of its decibel output, consume approximately 80% of the alcoholic beverages present in the establishment, and send the kitchen into general disarray, among other highly laudable qualities. We’re very locust-like, you know, in the very best sense of the underutilized locust-to-group-of-humans analogy. Everybody seemed to give the scene solid scores, but actual comments about the atmosphere itself were few and far between. Someone noted that it was an “authentic Cuban environment” which got me thinking, probably never a good thing, but hear me out. If this person is willing to vouch for the Cuban authenticity of this environment it would mean that they must have either (a) been to Cuba before or (b) been lying through their teeth because in reality they really have no idea what a true Cuban environment would look like. If it’s option (a) then the person obviously can’t be trusted due to their overt anti-American Communist sentiment. If option (b) then we’ll just chalk it up to a little post dining over-excitement due to extreme satiation. Consider your faux-pas forgiven anonymous comment maker, just make sure that it doesn’t happen again! Anyhow, BYOBers, let this be your official notice that your judgments will be judged! Then again I guess it’s always possible that this person could have possibly spent a semester abroad in Cuba infiltrating the establishment and planting seeds of an insidious nature that would lead to the crumbling of the pinko Cuban regime from within (although who are we kidding, the only person we know who could pull this feat off is one AT Killer, Christian name withheld here for various legal reasons). But I guess we’ll never know. The music was good. For our purposes; feeling comfortable being loud and drunk, slow clapping to our heart’s content, etc.; the composition of the clientele and the setup of the establishment couldn’t have worked out all that much better.

Group Rating: 3.12/4 (or, a rock solid smairtings-hairtings)

The Service

The service. What to say about the service? Really, I mean, it was just all over the place, which, in my opinion, probably added to the charm of Habana Libre in some weird way. Slow was the theme of the day, and “slow” might not even do justice to the speed in which our services were rendered. We won’t get into details but from the appetizers to the main courses, there was an inordinate amount of confusion and time spent placing, taking and receiving orders. To give everyone a frame of reference, I think I had approximately 3 beers between the time that our waitress took our table’s first main course order and when she was finally able to take down our last order of the evening. In the end, following a scene that I would imagine takes place regularly at retirement homes across this great nation of ours (servers and patrons both had trouble recollecting who had ordered what) the proper food was eventually delivered right where it belonged; directly in front of the gluttonous pie-holes that had ordered them. Granted, I can’t imagine that it’s easy to cater to a group of 19 barbarous individuals, so some of this is entirely understandable and should simply be chalked up to them not quite being able to handle a group of our size.

Given the actual services rendered, you’d think that the service would get resoundingly negative reviews from the crew. However, sometimes in life, one moment is all that is needed for redemption. This was one such occasion. Our waitress, with a little prodding from the peanut gallery, and to the great delight of everyone involved (with the exception of one member of the crowd who erroneously thought that “the waitress was totally out of line”) led a hilariously deadly slow clap of our dear friend (or, in some cases, arch nemesis) John Stamos, which not only led to a near state of euphoria from us and the neighboring tables, but brought redemption to the entire Habana Libre staff, from sous chef to server, in one fell swoop. In terms of timeliness and accuracy, the wait staff left much to be desired, but in terms of table interaction and friendliness (ranging from menu suggestions, to, most obviously, participating in the infamous slow clap) the folks at Habana Libre were second-to-none. For a BYOB get together I always feel like the later is typically more important than the former unless the errors and waiting are egregious in nature. In this case, the service, for all its deficiencies, definitely added to the overall experience and while someone might be inclined to think it ridiculous to allow a simple waitress-induced slow clap to sway an establishment’s overall service category marks, that someone would likely be vastly underestimating the sheer awesomeness of a stranger slow clapping the easily embarrassed and decidedly French John “Jean” Stamos.

Group Rating: 2.71/4 (or, a tenous at best smairtings-hairtings)

The Grub

The menu was actually fairly extensive, which can be somewhat of a blessing and a curse. Those with an indecisive temperament may be paralyzed by the wide array of choices, which can potentially lead to the dreaded ‘panic pick’ when you are on the clock. This, in turn, inevitably leads to at least some degree of regret as you watch your fellow dining companions joyfully and decisively order other, potentially more delicious, options than you were capable of when you had your moment in the sun. Severe indecisiveness aside, the food was quite delicious as a whole. Most of the offerings were above average. Generally speaking, the pork dishes seemed to be the most popular among the group (outside of the steak fajitas, which were, by many accounts, the most delicious offering that was sampled) while the steak/chicken/vegetarian dishes didn’t seem to resonate with the group quite as much. Appetizers were above average at worst across the board. The empanadas really hit the spot. If there was one theme that tied all of the different dishes together it would have to be the universally liberal use of garlic. Not a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination, just don’t plan on any post dinner PDA with anyone who didn’t sit down to dine with you earlier in the evening. All in all, not mind blowing, but I would definitely like to sit down at Habana Libre again and try a few additional items from the menu, and really, that’s about all you can ask for.

Group Rating: 3.12/4 (or, a rock solid smairtings-hairtings)


Habana Libre was a most suitable way to kick off season numero dos of the BYOB club. If the goal of each meeting is to enjoy good food with good friends and have some good fun then we hit the trifecta. The most memorable moment for most will be of our waitress’ slow-clapping escapade with our favorite lovably unsuspecting and abundantly uncomfortable victim. The count sits at three. It’s going to take dedication, perseverance and cultivation to make this number fully reach its potential greatness. I hope that you are all up to the task. Fellow BYOBers, after week one I can proclaim with confidence that we are now ready to take the city by storm. Let’s build on this. Jenn/Dan James/Mills, the pressure is on!

Group Rating: 2.98/4 (or, a fundamentally sound smairting-hairtings)

More Evidence